February 9, 2005 4:00 AM PST

Diamonds: Nanotech's best friend?

In the nanotechnology realm, pocket change figures big.

Dan Pickard, a graduate student at Stanford University's electrical-engineering school, needed a diamond membrane for an e-beam lithography system that can be used to help create nanotech products.

The slides in the accompanying photo gallery chronologically demonstrate how, with the help of professor Fabian Pease and undergraduate Heyjin Park, Pikard extracted the membrane from a diamond chip with a focused ion beam, a probe and an electron microscope. The diamond chip is about a millimeter in diameter and about 20 microns thick. The membrane is about 20 microns a side and 200 nanometers to 500 nanometers thick.

An e-beam lithography system draws a pattern on the surface of a semiconductor wafer that eventually becomes transistors or areas where metals or carbon can be grown. The energy from the beam imprints a copy of a mask--a sort of stencil--onto the surface of the wafer, which consists of layers of silicon and metal. That imprint is then exposed through processes similar to those used in photographic development. In traditional chips, the result is transistors. In nanotechnology, the result might be particles of iron, which can serve as a catalyst for growing carbon.

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Stanford University scientists use the teensy technology to remove the membrane of a 1945 Mercury dime.

The rise of nanotechnology has increased the importance of complex electrons and probes and made equipment makers some of the first beneficiaries of nanotechnology. FEI, which produced the equipment used in the images, reported fourth-quarter revenue of $145.2 million, an increase of 49 percent over revenue of $97.7 million a year ago. Net income rose to $8.4 million, more than the $3.3 million reported a year ago.

Although the resulting membrane in Pickard's work can be measured in microns, it's actually relatively large in nanotech terms. E-beam systems, meanwhile, are expected to play a large role in preparing surfaces for growing nanoparticles.

And what's up with the pocket change? It serves as a backdrop and workbench of sorts for the process depicted in the photos.

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Did the author understand what they were writing about?
After reading this article, it seems to me that either the author didn't understand the technology or is a poor writer. There is no useful information that tells WHY the technique was developed or for what useful purposes. Extract a diamond membrane from a dime for photolithography?!? I have worked in the microelectronics industry and still don't get the point of this article.
Posted by (3 comments )
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My thoughts exactly
... and I'm an advanced EE PhD student working on stuff similar to what this author is trying to report... (and I used to make nanostructures with an e-beam system on almost a daily basis till sometime back).

I guess I'm better off reading about it when they publish it somewhere... but perhaps in the meantime the author can brush up his "research" reporting skills -- obviously its not the same deal as reporting financial forecasts and Carly Fiorina's forced resignation.
Posted by Soliton (39 comments )
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I thought I was the only one ....
... I'm not alone ... I'll keep the faith trying understand nanotek in next articles...
Posted by ricardo.ruiz (3 comments )
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Retort:
Dammit Jim, I'm a journalist, not a nanotechnologist!
Posted by shoffmueller (236 comments )
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so i'm not stupid after all
well that was reasuring. i was starting to think i just couldn't read. i'm glad i'm not the only one who finds this story devoid of a point.
Posted by Dibbs (158 comments )
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